Sissano Sera Numbers: An-lang Digest, Vol 49, Issue 3

Richard Parker richardparker01 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jul 13 10:04:48 UTC 2007

Harald Hammarstrom said:
  >As for numeral systems shrinking, i.e. a former base 5 or 10 system
>monomorhemic numerals shrinking down to a 1,2,many system (or a 
>1,2,2+1,2+2 system), there are _at least_ two independant undeniable
>such cases. 
  One can be found in GP Smith's Morobe Counting Systems and
>one is Minor Mlabri a Mon-Khmer language. In both cases, the remaining
>1-2 numerals are cognate with the ones in the older system, but we can
>be sure that the languages descends from languages with bigger systems
>because cognates, with the right sound correspondances, for 3-10
>survive, in one case as birth-order names and in the other case in some ritual
  This would be very convincing indeed, if there was some evidence cited. Birth-order 
names might be evidence of some forgotten numbering system, or they could just be 
’respectful’ names from a ‘subjugated’ group trying to curry favour with ‘superior’ 
I know plenty of Felipes, Jaimes, and Ronaldos around here, but those names are very obviously imposed, or accepted, after Spanish colonisation, but . I haven’t yet found any
proto-Iberian birth-order name system.

>Now to the question of the descent of Sera and Sissano. They have
>non-AN numerals and, as far as I can see, non-AN pronouns. If they
>are linear Austronesian descendants, then these must have been
>borrowed or internally replaced. If borrowing, the case would strongly
>violate the hypothesis that basic vocabulary (or the like) aren't
>borrowed, and further, there is no identifiable source for the
>Internal replacement also appears intuitively awkward, especially the
>numerals (as I am not much of an expert on pronouns and inasmuch as
>are AN-like languages with very deviant pronoun systems e.g. Vanikoro).
>Would MD Ross favour a borrowing/replacement scenario of these items
>rather than a scenario of an original non-AN language with massive
>overlay of AN grammar and lexicon? Please expand.

  I finally found Don Laycock’s paper: where he reports the existence of a word /tartar/ for 5.
  Don Laycock Oceanic Linguistics, Vol. 12, No. 1/2
  And he confesses himself at just as much of a loss as the rest of us.
  Sissano has not one single number word identifiable in any way with either *Pan  *POc or any of their Papuan neighbours. 
  I’m sure Mark is right is suggesting that many people don’t use numbers very often in everyday language. (We do, because we have to buy things and pay taxes).
  Furthermore, if they’ve been subjected to a century or more of Western teachers, they
will almost certainly have forgotten those ceremonial procedures where the big man
shared out the spoils amongst the various groups of his tribe.
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